USC: Nick Holt

What Barkley and USC could do in 2012

December, 22, 2011
Over the last two weeks, Matt Barkley and his father, Les Barkley, talked over every possible issue they could think of to help decide whether Matt would return for his senior season at USC.

"Do you feel there's any risk that you'll get complacent?" Les, taking on the devil's advocate role, asked his son more than once. "Do you feel there's any risk that you may not be able to progress?"

The 21-year-old Barkley's answers were enough to convince both men that the decision to stay was the right one. But the truth is that there is a chance of both of those things happening. And, perhaps moreso, there's a chance that the teammates around him won't put up the same effort next season with the spotlight on.

But that's a risk Barkley was willing to take. And, understandably so, considering the flip side. If USC continues to work that underdog angle -- somehow, someway -- the Trojans could be just about unstoppable in 2012. They just don't lose very much talent. Including special teams, 19 of 24 starters will be back.

That includes Barkley's two top receivers, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, who could chase 3,000 combined yards in 2012. And his top running back, Curtis McNeal, and four of five starting offensive linemen. There isn't much more Barkley could want back to chase a national title.

"It's just kind of an exceptional set of circumstances that's really rare," Les said Thursday, minutes after Matt's announcement. "Things will never line up again like they are lined up for this team next year, and he wants to be part of it."

Sure. But what about actually doing it? What will it take to win the BCS title next year at Sun Life Stadium in Miami?

USC figures to start the season ranked in the Associated Press Top 5. Win out, and the Trojans are in the championship game. But it's not that easy. Not when players were already tweeting Thursday that a national championship is on the docket. Not when expectations are going to be sky-high from Day 1 of spring practice.

"I think it'll be very important for our team this year to have the same mentality going into this year, being the underdogs," Matt Barkley said Thursday, in a private moment just after the news conference finished. "It'll be hard, but we're still gonna have that mentality.

"We can't let anybody get big-headed, myself included."

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Kiffin: McNeal will likely start

November, 9, 2011
Marc Tyler's back in the fold now and George Farmer will likely suit up as well, but Curtis McNeal is going to get the start for USC at running back for the second straight week, Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said Wednesday.

For the full story, click this link.

First, first look: Washington

July, 22, 2011
The weeks are counting down until fall camp begins for the USC football team the first week of August. During each of the in-between weeks, we've been offering up an early first look at the 12 scheduled opponents for the 2011 season, in chronological order. We began with Minnesota, Utah and Syracuse, continued the next three weeks with Arizona State, Arizona, and Cal and added Notre Dame, Stanford and Colorado recently. We now present Washington, who the Trojans will play at home on Saturday, Nov. 12:

History: Three Pac-12 teams have beaten USC the last two times they matched up: Stanford, Oregon and Washington.

The Huskies memorably upset the Trojans in September 2009 when then-freshman Matt Barkley missed the game because of a shoulder bruise and Aaron Corp struggled in his place. Then, last October, Washington beat USC on a last-second field goal -- again -- from kicker Erik Folk, taking advantage of a miss by USC's Joe Houston on the previous possession.

Both games were decided on the final play, and both were the Trojans' first losses of their respective seasons. If this game ends up USC's first loss in 2011, the Trojans will have had a super-successful year, but that's beside the point.

Historically, USC leads the series 49-28-4. The last time Washington beat the Trojans three times straight was in 1990-1992. On the topic of streaks, USC has twice defeated the Huskies at least seven times straight, in1965-1974 and 2002-2008. Washington's best run was five consecutive victories in the 1930s.

Offense: Washington was carried by quarterback Jake Locker in last year's game at the Coliseum. Coach (and offensive playcaller) Steve Sarkisian probably won't have that same benefit this season when he turns to true sophomore Keith Price as his starter.

Price, a Bellflower St. John Bosco High product, did well in limited opportunities behind Locker last season but has little starting experience. In eight games in 2010, he threw 37 total passes and completed 19 of them for two touchdowns and no interceptions. Most of those numbers came in his lone start at Oregon in November.

His receiving options are plentiful: senior Jermaine Kearse, a 1,000-yard guy in 2010, is in the conversation as best Pac-12 receiver with Arizona's Juron Criner and USC's Robert Woods. Devin Aguilar, another senior receiver, is a steady talent. Incoming freshman Austin Seferian-Jenkins is gigantic -- 6 feet 6, 250 pounds -- and might start at tight end right away.

But the Huskies' offense will be based around junior running back Chris Polk, a Redlands East Valley High alum who was second in the conference in rushing last season behind Oregon's LaMichael James. He averaged 20 carries a game last year and could get even more in 2011.

The offensive line is middle of the road for the conference, with converted defensive tackle Senio Kelemete the most interesting player as a potential NFL left tackle. Junior center Drew Schaefer started 11 games in 2010.

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Tuesday practice report: Breakdown

September, 28, 2010
Notes, quotes and video from Tuesday's practice:
  • It was a turnover-free day for the Trojans -- but not a mistake-free one, with balls dropped left and right by receivers, including a rare mistake by freshman Robert Woods. Coach Lane Kiffin said he was hoping to have the heat of the past few days in Los Angeles stay around for the evening practice, but the temperature dropped a significant amount in the late afternoon. "Hopefully it'll be hot again tomorrow," he said, implying that intensity rises as the temperature does.
  • Injury report: defensive ends Nick Perry (ankle) and Armond Armstead practiced fully (shoulder), defensive end Wes Horton (back) and cornerback T.J. Bryant (undisclosed) were limited and linebacker Simione Vehikite (neck) did not practice.
  • Perry played Saturday against Washington State; Armstead did not. Still, both look to be easily on track to play this weekend against Washington. Horton is a much bigger question mark. He said after Tuesday's practice that he was going to visit with a team doctor to get an updated prognosis on his injury, suffered when he was accidentally kicked in the back by Perry during the WSU game. Horton added that he is still "a little bit" sore but hopes to play.
  • Linebacker Michael Morgan talked about the discipline necessary to contain Washington quarterback Jake Locker, a highly-touted player who could go No. 1 overall in next April's NFL draft. In USC's defense, the linebackers are typically in a zone scheme. Accordingly, when Locker scrambles in and out of the pocket, he frequently tempts players to leave the areas they are expected to cover and gamble on tackling him in the open field. It often doesn't work and can sometimes open up throwing lanes. "He's a great athlete, and we understand that," Morgan said. "But he has a hell of an arm, that's for sure. We know we've gotta respect his passing game as well, but we know we've gotta focus on the run because in the past few games, like in Hawaii, the quarterbacks have scrambled on us a little bit."
  • Quarterback Matt Barkley said Washington's blitz packages and defensive line stunts are very similar to what the Trojans themselves run -- which would make sense, seeing as Huskies defensive coordinator Nick Holt held the same post at USC from 2006 to '08. But Barkley also said that the Huskies' defense seems to share parts with Minnesota's, which would give the Trojans an extra benefit, having just played the Golden Gophers. "They do blitz a lot," Barkley said of Washington, "which we have great practice against because we've been going against almost every blitz this whole year."
  • Final notes: Freshman quarterback Jesse Scroggins is portraying Locker this week in scout-team drills, the first time he has done so for an opposing quarterback this season. Kiffin indicated that Scroggins is more mobile than walk-on John Manoogian, who usually does the job. ... Six walk-ons have joined the squad: receivers Nic Curry, Tim McGuigan and Kevin Noble, linebacker Austin Rittenour, cornerback William Rojas and defensive tackle Tyler Grady. Grady was a discus thrower on USC's track & field team this past spring.


Kiffin spoke after Tuesday's practice and provided plenty of information on this week's game, including a humorous exchange about his and Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian's comments to the media.

See what Kiffin had to say:


Fullback Stanley Havili was the star of Saturday's win over Washington State, but this week's opponent quickly erased thoughts of that game and brought back memories of the Trojans' 2009 loss to Washington.

In that game, Havili fumbled after catching a swing pass in the red zone -- just as USC was set to take the lead with the game at 10-10. See what Havili said Tuesday about that crucial error and about his ongoing friendship with Sarkisian:



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